Why do you do what you do? What are the core needs that drive your behaviour? What does this mean for what energises you or drains you in your job? And how does this relate to your well-being?

Each of the four people below worked as a Head of Business of a luxury car dealership (cases from my book, names changed). They were all successful in their roles but displayed different strengths related to their different top motivators. Which of these four approaches is most like yours?


Most of us need to feel that we belong to a group – in fact most of us belong to lots of different groups and this contributes to our sense of identity and to our well-being. For some people the need for belonging is particularly strong – they have a strong sense of duty and responsibility and are driven to be of service to others. They are energised when they feel part of a team and stressed when they are not able to contribute.

Mike ran a luxury car dealership. He was motivated by taking responsibility and belonging to a group. He had a reputation for being reliable, delivering what he said he would, following through on actions and picking up tasks that no-one else wanted to do. He liked to feel that he was keeping the wheels of the organisation turning.

If belonging is your top motivator, how do you meet your needs to belong? What would you like to change?


We like to have freedom – some choice and control over our work and how and when we do it. And we like choice and control in our lives outside work too. It’s a core need we all share. For some people, the need for the freedom to act, to take control, is especially strong. They are energised when they can act in the moment to resolve problems, and they feel stressed when they are constrained by rules and procedures.

Abdul ran a luxury car dealership. He was motivated by the need to have freedom to act and be able to get impressive quick results. He had his “finger on the pulse”, knew exactly what was going on around him and acted quickly to deal with problems. He was quick witted and able to think on his feet. He easily built rapport with customers, and he enjoyed being around the luxury cars in the showroom.

Is the need for freedom your top motivator? How do you meet that need? And what happens when you cannot meet it?


We want to be respected for our competence, and for our strengths and talents. Some people are driven to reach mastery in their chosen field – they like to learn and acquire knowledge, and they often like to work with experts or become expert themselves. They are energised by opportunities to innovate and contribute to progress and they are stressed by routine demands on their time.

Gemma was motivated by the need for competence, and her priority was to run an efficient and effective operation that would be seen as a benchmark for others. She promoted her site as the proving ground for using new technology both in its customer-facing side and in the back-office activities.

If you have a strong need for competence, how do you meet that need in your current work and life? How do you feel when that need is not met?


At the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is self-actualisation ie fulfilling your potential. I guess that is something we all hope we will achieve during our lives. For some people the core need to fulfil potential and help others fulfil theirs is especially strong. They are energised when they can help people achieve their aspirations and when there is harmony between people. They are stressed by conflict and criticism.

Shanta was motivated by her desire to help others fulfil their potential. She always had time for her team members and made it a priority to give feedback and coach them. She felt fulfilled when they went on to bigger roles. She was quick to pick up on any signs that people were not happy and dealt with this sensitively.

If this is your top motivator, what opportunities do you have to meet that need in work or outside work? How else could you meet that need?

Which of the four core needs is most important for you?

All four needs matter for all of us, but usually one is more important for each of us and this leads to particular values, talents and patterns of behaviour.  If you know which is your top motivator, you can work out what energises you and what drains you.  Knowing what most motivates you, means you can play to your strengths, and make choices about your career that fit with your interests and values. And you can manage your life to do more of what energises you and less of what drains you – leading to greater well-being.

Try my quiz to assess which is your top motivator.